The Puerto Rico Islanders, playing one man down from the 36th minute, kept their undefeated record with a 2-2 tie against the visiting Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The first half consisted mostly of a battle for possession in the midfield and few chances for either team. Not long after the half-hour mark, the game changed in tone when Islanders defender Jay Needham was given a straight red card and sent out of the game for apparently hitting Strikers’ forward Le Pit inside the penalty area. Eduardo Coudet took the penalty shot for the Strikers and put the visitors ahead 1-0.
““Definitely a game of two halves. In the first half, we were awful, as bad as we’ve played in a long time. We didn’t show any desire or commitment. Looked like we started to believe that we were a good team without having to do the work” remarked coach Colin Clarke after the game. The ‘Tropa Naranja’ seems to have understood Clarke’s disapproval during half time. For the second half, the team came out aggressively looking to get back in the game – even while being down to 10 men – and continuously pressured the visitor’s goal.
Nicholas Addlery finally broke through for the Islanders in the 75th minute with a perfectly headed goal off of a centered pass by Richard Martinez. The Strikers by then were playing a defensive minded game while the Islanders continued on the attack. Regardless of the home side’s efforts, the Strikers’ goal seemed impermeable.
In the 89th minute, the Strikers took the lead again with a goal from Scot Gordon. The visitor’s excitement wouldn’t last long as Islanders forward Gregory Richardson tied the game once more in the 90th minute (Assist: Aaron Pitchkolan).
““For the second half, even down to ten men, got to hand it to them, they were magnificent. They showed a lot of heart and fought to get back into the game, to draw level, and then to come back a second time in the last minute was just unbelievable. Overall, I think we deserved to win the game, a little disappointed that we didn’t get the 3 points but we’ll take 1 point and stay unbeaten”, said Clarke. The Islanders remain in first place in the North American Soccer League after one tie and three wins so far this season, for a total of 10 points.
Next Saturday, May 7th, the ‘Tropa Naranja’ will face Walking Boyz Co. in Suriname in the first leg of the second round of the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) Champions Cup. Later on, the Islanders will host the second leg in the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium on Saturday May 14th at 8:00pm.